North Korea, Eritrea have world’s highest rates of modern slavery — report

More than 40 million people were enslaved around the world as of 2016. (Shutterstock)
Updated 20 July 2018
0

North Korea, Eritrea have world’s highest rates of modern slavery — report

  • China, Pakistan, North Korea and Nigeria rounded out the top five nations with the largest number of slaves
  • Two years ago, the index showed 18.3 million people living in modern slavery in India

NEW YORK: North Korea and Eritrea have the world’s highest rates of modern slavery, said a global survey on Thursday that highlighted how conflict and government repression are the main drivers of a crime estimated to affect more than 40 million people worldwide.
The Central African nation of Burundi also has a high prevalence of slavery, according to the 2018 Global Slavery Index published by the human rights group Walk Free Foundation.
“Each of these three countries has state-sponsored forced labor, where their government puts its own people to work for its own benefit,” said Fiona David, research chair of Minderoo Foundation, which led the data collection.
More than 40 million people were enslaved around the world as of 2016, according to an estimate by the Walk Free Foundation and the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO).
India was home to the largest total number with an estimated 8 million slaves among its 1.3 billion population, according to Walk Free’s 2018 calculation.
Two years ago, the index showed 18.3 million people living in modern slavery in India. The difference is due to changes in methodology, Walk Free said, reflecting ways of counting people enslaved on any given day or over a longer time period.
China, Pakistan, North Korea and Nigeria rounded out the top five nations with the largest number of slaves, accounting for about 60 percent of victims globally, according to Walk Free.
But North Korea had the highest percentage of its population enslaved, with one in 10 people are in modern slavery and “the clear majority forced to work by the state,” the index said.
Researchers interviewed 50 North Korean defectors who spoke of long hours and inhumane conditions in forced unpaid labor for adults and children in farming, construction and roadbuilding.
“This index makes us visible,” said Yeon-Mi Park, a defector who spoke at a news conference at United Nations headquarters.
“These people simply were born in the wrong place, and that’s what they are being punished for,” she said, describing being trafficked into China where she was sold as a child bride.
Another defector Jang Jin-Sung said North Koreans do not consider themselves slaves.
“They’ve been indoctrinated all their lives to think that whatever they do for the state is a good thing,” he said.
In Eritrea, the report said the government is “a repressive regime that abuses its conscription system to hold its citizens in forced labor for decades.”
Burundi’s government also imposes forced labor, Walk Free said, while rights groups including Human Rights Watch have implicated its security forces in murders and disappearances.
Other countries with the highest rates of slavery were the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Pakistan.
“Most of these countries are marked by conflict, with breakdowns in rule of law, displacement and a lack of physical security,” the report said.
With more than nine million people living in slavery — nearly eight in every 1,000 people — Africa had the highest rate of enslavement of any region, according to the report.
The researchers also warned that consumers in affluent countries may be purchasing billions of dollars worth of products manufactured with slave labor, including computers, mobile phones and clothing.
“Modern slavery is a first-world problem,” said Andrew Forrest, a co-founder of Australia-based Walk Free. “We are the consumers. We can fix it,” he added.
Slavery is likely more widespread than the research suggests, activists and experts say. The report noted gaps in data from Arab states, as well as a lack of information on organ trafficking and the recruitment of children by armed groups.


French police clear fuel protesters as movement wanes

Updated 8 min 2 sec ago
0

French police clear fuel protesters as movement wanes

PARIS: French police cleared demonstrators blocking roads and fuel depots Tuesday in a crackdown on the so-called "yellow vest" protests against President Emmanuel Macron that have left two people dead.
Hundreds of thousands of people blockaded roads across France on the weekend, wearing high-visibility yellow vests in a national wave of defiance aimed at 40-year-old centrist Macron.
The protests had waned by Tuesday but the disruption underlined the anger and frustration felt by many motorists, particularly in rural areas or small towns, fed up with what they see as the government's anti-car policies, including tax hikes on diesel.
Macron, who has made a point of not backing down in the face of public pressure during his time in office, called Tuesday for more "dialogue" to better explain his policies.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, meanwhile, urged ruling Republic On The Move lawmakers to stand firm in the face of voter criticism, saying the party would reap the rewards of its "constancy and determination".
Two people have been accidentally killed and 530 people injured, 17 seriously, over four days of protests that have come to encompass a wide variety of grievances over the rising cost of living.
A 37-year-old motorcyclist died Tuesday from injuries sustained a day earlier after being hit by a truck making a u-turn to avoid a roadblock in the southeast Drome region, a judicial source said.
The other victim was a 63-year-old woman accidently killed by a panicked driver in the eastern Savoie region on the first day of protests.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has instructed police to break up the remaining roadblocks, particularly those around fuel depots and sites of strategic importance.
"We can see today that there are real excesses from a movement that was for the most part conducted in good spirit on Saturday," he told France 2 TV.
The ministry said about 20 "strategic" sites and fuel depots in several regions were cleared of protesters Tuesday.
Some hardliners kept blockades and slowdowns at some tolls, motorway junctions, and roundabouts.
"The movement won't run out of steam," said Olivier Garrigues, a farmworker at one protest in the south. "There are less people because everyone is working. But we are organised."
Several of the injuries were caused by motorists trying to force their way through roadblocks, but some protesters have also been accused of intimidating and endangering motorists.
A 32-year-old man with a history of violence was given a four-month prison sentence by a Strasbourg court for putting lives at risk by taking part in a human chain across a motorway.
Protests have also erupted in Reunion, a French overseas territory island in the Indian Ocean, where authorities introduced a partial curfew in some neighbourhoods after a night of violence.
AFP judicial sources Tuesday denied media reports that a group of men arrested earlier this month in the city of Saint-Etienne on suspicion of plotting an attack had planned to strike during Saturday's fuel protests.
On Tuesday, the "yellow vests" appeared to be losing steam, with only a fraction of the nearly 300,000 people that manned the barricades on Saturday still camped out in the bitter cold.
Further protests are planned for the weekend, with some calling for a blockade of Paris.
The grassroots movement, which has won backing from opposition parties on both the left and right as well as a majority of respondents in opinion polls, accuses Macron of squeezing the less well-off while reducing taxes for the rich.
"It's about much more than fuel. They (the government) have left us with nothing," Dominique, a 50-year-old unemployed technician told AFP at a roadblock in the town of Martigues, near the southern city of Marseille.
Macron's government, trying to improve its environmental credentials, has vowed not to back down on trying to wean people off their cars through fuel taxes.
The government has unveiled a 500-million-euro package of measures to help low-income households, including energy subsidies and higher scrappage bonuses for the purchase of cleaner vehicles.